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The Mars Bar is not only Adelaide's only gay and lesbian nightclub, it's an Adelaide icon! It has been operating continuously in the same location on Gouger St since around 1977 (under a variety of names including "The Cactus Patch" and "Park Avenue at Chix Restaurant"), making it an amazing 35 years old .
So what makes the Mars so successful? How has it outlasted countless other LBGT venues in Adelaide's fickle social climate? Why do hordes of scantily clad guys and girls snuggle together in Adelaide's winter to queue for entry?
The sounds are a blend of mainstream and modern music with occasional nostalgic visits to classic dance hits. The live cabaret in stunning costumes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights is incredibly popular. And the mysterious mix of gay/bi/don't care/straight punters will always bring a few surprises.
On arrival there is an obvious security presence, but the staff are courteous and helpful. Unlike hetero clubs where a long look from the bouncer probably means you won't be admitted, the security staff don't see their role as intimidating the visitors. Dress restrictions are very relaxed (especially if you're wearing one). It is extremely rare to be refused admission to gay clubs unless you are either drunk or aggressive.
There are a choice of two dance areas - the Main Room and the Kitchen Bar with different musical flavours, while an eight ball table entertains those who can't or won't dance. The DJ kept the large crowd happy though, occasionally provoking loud squeals and a lemming-like rush to the dance floor with a popular choice of tune.
Upstairs there is a Garden Bar if you wish to escape the floor shaking music, need to indulge a nicotine habit, or just want to hear your partner chat. Drink service was great, I didn't see a big queue at any of the bars all night. And prices were better than many other clubs in town.
While there is a very high proportion of teens and twenties at the club, there was a sprinkling of all ages there (a lady celebrating her 63rd announced her birthday during artiste Rochelle's chat with the audience). The mix of gender seemed pretty even, although I suspect far more of the women were straight than men.
In fact that may well be one of the Mars' secrets to success. Girls adore glamorous gay boys and their outrageously flamboyant camp behaviour. And who likes good looking party girls more than hetero young men? (Well, at least young men who are very open minded).
It's fair to say that gay boys do get very excited about the challenge of a good looking stud who hasn't quite experienced all the joys that sex can offer. Hmm, get my drift?
Around 2am on Fridays and Saturdays the crowd is treated to a floor show which is immensely popular. If you're a cabaret fan then find a spot early to get the best view. A series of drag queens attended by dancing male acolytes puts on a stunning display in colourful costume - not to be missed.
After the show has finished, Rochelle comes out for a chat with the audience. Not a good time to be in the front row! Her acid tongue and quick wit has brought blushes to many grown men. The outrageous competitions require audience members to do things which they almost certainly will regret (within hours, if not days).
When the music resumes (around 3am) the crowd usually slowly thins out, with the more enthusiastic singles still trolling trenchantly for a partner. Perhaps they should try should try my tips here.
If you're an early morning worker in the city, you can still see the more persistent punters blinking blearily as they emerge into the light around 5am. But most of us are probably well in bed by then, sleeping off another night at The Mars .
The Mars Bar, Adelaide's Gay and Lesbian Nightclub
Why? It's a club unlike any other in Adelaide. An icon
When:Wednesdays Closed. Thursdays 9:00pm to Late (Free entry all night, DJ VJBeeJay and Guests). Friday 9:00pm to Late, Kitchen Bar opens after 12:00am, Live Drag Show at 2:00am. Saturdays 9:00pm to Late, Kitchen Bar opens after 12:00am, Live Drag Show @2
By far, my favourite article of the week! The Mars Bar is an excellent place to be exuberant, fabulous and ....well, yourself! Whether it's about hanging around by the beer garden and catching up with friends, or dancing on your heels below on the dance floor, this place delivers! Thanks for a delightful read!